(Photo Courtesy of Dartmouth Athletics)
The Dartmouth Big Green have only had one 11-win season in the NCAA era and one NCAA Tournament berth in program history. Both of those milestones came during Big Green’s 2003 season, which was the fifth and final year under head coach Rick Sowell.
Since that historic season, the Big Green have been through three head coaching changes, produced only three winning seasons (2004, 2005, 2006), and most recently, they have only been able to eclipse two wins in a full season once (2015) under current head coach Brendan Callahan.
While Dartmouth remains a bottom feeder in both the Ivy League and on the national stage, signs that the tides may soon be turning in Hanover, N.H. are everywhere. This past season, Dartmouth went 3-1 overall before the 2020 season was cut short due to the Coronavirus outbreak and over the past few seasons the Big Green have shown improvements in various areas and have seemed to be recruiting on a better level then they had previously.
On the offensive side of the field, the Big Green took some significant leaps from 2017 to 2018, improving their goals per game average, overall team shooting percentage, and capitalizing more on power play opportunities. They did take a bit of a step back in certain categories in 2019, but it is worth noting that they did lose two of their top five scorers to graduation, took more shots than in either of the two previous seasons, and by contrast their numbers overall didn’t drop too drastically. And they did convert more, percentage wise, on the power play that season than in the prior two as well.
In 2020 the Big Green were led by a fairly younger core offensive unit than in previous years and looked to be on track to putting together one of their best seasons, offensively, from a statistical standpoint in quite some time. Through four contests, Dartmouth was averaging 11.5 goals per game, shooting at a .348 percent, and putting 59% of their shots on goal.
Attackman George Prince has been one of the leaders behind this consistent offensive improvement from the Big Green. A starter since the day he step foot on campus in Hanover, Martin has been a top-two scorer each of his three seasons. Coming into his senior year, Martin is coming off a season where he led the team with 16 points (9G/7A) and was on pace to have his best season yet.
In his final season, all eyes will be on Prince as he will be “The Guy” once again. If Prince can take yet another step in his development, the Big Green’s offense should be in pretty good hands at the top of the chain. Additionally, the Big Green return two other key attackmen in senior Matt Paul and sophomore Tommy Rogan. Each tallied 12 points this past season and were crucial pieces of the offense as top-three scorers and full-time starters.
While the Big Green return some high quality pieces on the offensive end, they also lose some key figures in Ben Martin, Harlan Smart, and Liam O’Connell to graduation. The loss Martin means losing a high-caliber goal scorer and the loss of Smart and O’Connell leaves senior Trevor Ballantyne (3A) as their top returning true midfielder. Being that thin on experience at the midfield position, isn’t a good thing to have but with enough talent at attack and good amount of role players coming back at the midfield, it isn’t likely that they will be set back that much. Especially with how attack heavy their offenses have been over the past few seasons.
On the back end, improvement hasn’t been seen quite to the extent that is had on the offensive side of the field. But there has certainly been some. Under first year defensive coordinator Matt Dugan, Dartmouth was currently on track to have their best defensive season in the Callahan era this past season, allowing an average of sub double-digit goals per game.
Led by junior goalie Daniel Hincks, the Big Green defense has the ability to continue to progress in 2021. Hicks posted a .628 save percentage through four games. He ranked as the second best goalie in the Ivy League in bot goals against and save percentage at the time the season was cut short.
With Hincks, who has started in all but one game during his college career thus far, in between the pipes the Big Green have a chance to churn out another season of improvement on the back end. And that looks even more attainable when you consider that they will also bring back two of their top poles in junior LSM Peter Rizzotti (9GB/4CT) and Kellen senior Paradine (6GB/2CT), in addition to multiple other contributors like senior Matt Erfle who should be able to step up and produce even more in 2021.
Despite losing a few key guys on the defensive side due to graduation, the Big Green appear to have enough experience depth on that end to continue their improvement in Dugan’s second year as defensive coordinator. And as previously stated, if Hincks can take another step forward in his progression then we could possible see potential from Dartmouth team that we haven’t seen in quite a while this coming spring.
And even if their defense can’t take another full stride forward, they at least have a solid piece at the faceoff dot to level things out when needed. Mitchell Myers went 45-for-87 (.517%) at the faceoff dot as a freshman last season. After making a name for himself in the shortened 2020 season, the only place for his to go appears to be up, much like the rest of this Dartmouth program.